Larimar is a rare blue gemstone from the Caribbean’s that is supposed to bring peace and to allow thinking with a calm mind. “When I set up the company I thought that these were good attributes,” recalls Larimar’s Chief Operating Officer Ayesha Malhotra, when explaining the name of the leather company she founded in 2015.
A former management consultant, Malhotra has always been passionate about leather and leather products. Before taking the plunge and setting up her own business she made sure she was well prepared: she worked for five years with an artisan in Italy where she learnt how to work with leather and how to create and make bags. Then she had the opportunity to work with a factory in Calcutta where she learnt hands on how everything about production.
“When I felt ready, I tried to incorporate what I learnt in Italy and in Calcutta and I went down to set up my own company,” Malhotra recollects.
Two years down the road, Larimar employs 21 permanent staff, produces 2000 pieces a month of leather bags, wallets, belts and other small accessories, with plans to expand to 5000, supplies OEM customers from across the world and has developed its own brand of leather accessories called Java Plum.
This time, the brand is not inspired by geology but from the botanical name of a fruit called Jamun, originally from Indonesia and very common in India. Java plum sells mainly ladies handbags although a range of men’s accessories was added recently. “They are good quality products at an affordable price,” describes Malhotra who designs the minimalist looking bags herself.
For OEM and private labels from across the world which are the bulk of Larimar’s business, Malhotra either follows their strict specifications or works in conjunction with the clients’ designers to create products that are unique to them. “This is a very enjoyable process because over time we learn what our customers like and we can suggest them innovative ideas,” Malhotra says.
Most of the company’s customers are in the US and the UK although it recently moved into Singapore and Germany and hopes to expand to other countries of the world which is one of the reasons for its presence at Fashion Access. “We also appreciate the fact that the show is combined with a material fair where we can find new suppliers, learn new techniques and keep up to date with innovations in the industry,” explains Malhotra.
Unless a customer wants to use a specific type of leather from Italy of elsewhere, most of the leather used by Larimar is sourced in India, “because here we can create almost any type of leather “, justifies Malhotra. “We work with different countries in the world based on what is their specialization. For example, for certain type of synthetic material we source from China,” she adds.
Apart from its permanent staff, Larimar employs a mix of craftsmen so it makes sure that most of the work is done in-house. “We have different dedicated departments such as weaving, printing and embroidery. We make sure our workers are specialized in each of these skills. We are always innovating and inventing new techniques such as weaving leather and jute, leather and fabric or leather and cord so we are gradually building a specialization for which we are recognized,” Malhotra describes.
Such creativity did not go unnoticed by APLF’s trends experts as up to three of Larimar’s designs were selected and featured in the exhibition’s Trend Section.